How to target different English regions and non-English speaking countries from a single domain name.
I have been exposed to rather big websites that communicate to a large worldwide audience. It is important to get it right when you are targeting multiple countries and languages both from a Google perspective as well as that of the user. I have therefore put together this recommendation on how a website targeting different locations should be structured.
www.domain.com – Should contain a splash page with a list of all the different countries available on this domain. Under each country should be a clean link to each translation of that site. For example you may have:
This can be visually represented however you wish, as long as you have a clean link to each different version of the site. In the examples above you would be targeting multiple language per country.
The different versions or languages of your site should be in subdirectories of the root domain to match browser language settings. The reason why we don’t have the languages hosted on sub-domains is because sub-domains in Google’s eyes are brand new domains separate from the main domain. Subdirectories or folders inherit all link equity (PR) from the main domain – which is obviously something that you’d want. Therefore following the Canadian example mentioned above, you should have the following sites listed on your splash page:
If you are not targeting specific languages in one country but only a specific country instead then I suggest you stick with only the country code after the domain:
Serving users their regional site after their first Visit
If a visitor searches for your Brand Name – they should be served the splash page on their first visit. Upon the user making an initial selection a Cookie should be passed to that computer. Should the same visitor request the splash page again (note: only the splash page), they’re automatically 302 redirected to their regional homepage.
It’s important that each page on the website has the functionality to select another Region & Language easily – via the use of clean links (drop-down is also fine). Should a user select a different translation/region – the Cookie should be updated (irrespective of Browser Language settings). The user should be sent through to the same piece of content, on a different version of the site. Not back to the homepage.
It’s important that every version of the website has completely unique content otherwise you will have duplicate content issues to deal with later.
To ensure SEO success you need to inform Google of all the different versions of our website, this means you should only see your root domain and sub-directories ending “/ca/” or “/-ca/” in Google.ca.
This can be done in Google Webmaster Tools by adding each regional site and then setting a Geographic Target (this can be found in “Site Configuration” -> “Settings”).
(An acknowledgement to DaveN for sharing his vast knowledge on most of the technical details in this post.)